Champney’s senior nutritionist Becki Douglas gave us her top tips on how you can have your cake and eat it – without feeling guilty! For treats with nutritional value, try these swaps.
Get your 5-a-day
With baking, one of the biggest things at the moment is doing vegetable based cakes. You can use things like courgette, beetroot or sweet potato in place of some of the flour and the sugar. The water and natural sugars in the vegetables gives the cake moisture and sweetness, but it helps to reduce the calories from added fats and sugar added. In addition to this, it boosts the nutritional value of the cake in terms of the vitamin and mineral content and the fibre from the vegetables as well. Popular combinations are courgette and lemon, and chocolate and beetroot.
Swap out the sugar
Sugar levels in food is in the news at the moment, with it recommended that we dramatically reduce the amount we’re ingesting. To reduce the levels of sugar when baking, you could use natural substitutes instead – things like date purée, agave syrup, xylitol or stevia all have less impact on blood sugar levels, help prevent tooth decay and reduce the calorie content. Also, if you’re using vegetables, as suggested above, they already contain natural sugars so you won’t need any additional.
Using different types of flour won’t necessarily alter the calories, but it will improve the overall nutritional value of the cake. If you use something like almond, coconut or quinoa flour instead of refined wheat flour, there is going to be a lot more fibre and a bit more protein and minerals, such as zinc and magnesium. If using almond flour you will get some extra monounsaturated fats and extra Vitamin E, which is really good for skin health. In addition to boosting the healthiness of your baking, these flour alternatives are all gluten free as well.
If you want to have a chocolate flavoured cake without the added fats and sugars (who doesn’t?!), you can use raw cacao powder or cacao nibs instead. The raw form of chocolate has a lot of health benefits – is a lot higher in antioxidants, has been associated to supporting the immune system, has anti-ageing qualities and is good for eye and skin health because of the flavanol oxidants in the cacao.
Go nuts for coconuts
Coconut oil is a big food trend at the moment. Like using different flour, it’s not going to be particularly different calorie-wise. But, there are a lot of additional health benefits to be had when using coconut oil – either when used as a flavouring or as a substitute for butter, margarine or lard. One of its biggest benefits is that the energy from coconut oil is metabolised differently – with the calories from the coconut oil potentially more likely to be burned as energy than stored as fat. Also, coconut oil contains unique types of saturated fat called medium-chain tryglycerides, which have been found to be quite beneficial for health, such as being potentially good for your digestive system. The thing to be aware with is that it will flavour everything with coconut, but you can now get unflavoured coconut oil if you aren’t such as fan of the flavour.
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